Artist: Stephen Tsai
Player Count: 2-4 players
Play time: 30-60 minutes
A prototype copy of Sorcerer & Stones was provided by Deep Water Games for preview. I would like to thank them for supporting my blog. Everything you see in today’s preview does not represent the final product.
Sorcerer and Stones is an abstract set collection and hand management game by Emperor S4. Deep Water Games is bringing this game and a group of other Emperor S4 titles to the North American market. I’m really excited about this partnership. Emperor S4 titles had a lot of buzz leading up to Essen and from what I saw online, I wanted to get my hands on most of their catalog. The problem was the price and shipping costs to get them to my doorstep. I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Things have changed because this is the second Kickstarter campaign from Deep Water Games featuring Emperor S4 titles. I’m giddy and excited, but I have to play a game before I make any final judgements. Here is my preview for Sorcerer and Stones.
In Sorcerer and Stones, players are Taoist who are trying to reach enlightenment. During the game you will gather Qi Stones, collect Elemental Runes, and craft Artifacts to score points. Players will use Magic cards to move their Taoist (worker) around the Alchemy Zone to collect Spirit Stones. Additionally, you have the Element Zone where players will move their spirits around to acquire Elemental Runes. The game ends when one player collects five Elemental Runes, all Artifacts cards are crafted or the Qi Stone pile is empty. The player with the most points wins.
A game of Sorcerers and Stones is played over several rounds until the end game requirements are met. The first time you play, it might be a bit overwhelming because of how many possible choices are available to you each turn. There’s a little bit of unpredictability due to the possibility of tiles being shifted or rotated right before your turn. Some AP (analysis paralysis) play will occur, but I assure you the game ends at around 45 minutes at max player count. The game play is easy enough to learn that everyone will start to figure out how to make more efficient turns by their second or third go around. During a player’s they must take the following actions:
Play one or two cards: You draw fours of your eleven Magic cards and place them face up in front you. You must choose one or two Magic cards to play. Magic cards move your Taoist (fly), rotate your current tile (spin), move tiles any around the board (quake), and swap colors (Shift).
Activate Alchemy Zone: After playing Magic cards, activate your Alchemy Zone. Your zone is the tile where your Taoist (worker) is currently placed. Here are the requirements to gather Spirit Stones:
- You must share the same color with an adjacent Spirit Stone of another tile
- They must form a straight line of 3 Spirit Stones of identical colors.
You take one matching Spirit Stone that fulfills the requirements above on YOUR Alchemy Zone. It’s an easy rule to forget, but everything you take is only from your zone. When you gain a Spirit Stone matching your color, then you receive a Qi Stone. It might take a couple turns to set up longer lines of matching stones or just find a decent set of combos. Sorcerers and Stones also has a novice mode to help ease players into the flow of the game. Plenty of fun to be had in this game.
Moving Spirit in the Element Zone: A player may choose to move their Spirit (Taoist) in the Element Zone, based on the Spirit Stones you gained in the same round. You move oranthonganally across the board and in any color order. The goal of moving in the Element Zone is to pick up one rune of each color, except their own color. You trigger the end of the game when you have a total of five. To pick up a rune, you must be adjacent to it. There is a race element to moving across the zone because the runes are spread out to each corner and one is in the middle. You want to be the first to the other runes because they are worth between one to three points in descending order. Completing some Objective cards award free moves in the Element Zone, which sets up the opportunity to sync up moving multiple spaces in one round.
Gain Reward on Objective Cards: Every game, three of the seven Objective cards are randomly chosen for that specific game. Players can score on multiple objectives and the rewards range from one to four Qi Stones, free movement on the Element Zone, and opportunities to trade Spirit Stones.
Refill the Spirit Stones: Spirit Stones are refilled in order from the Spirit Stone supply. You replace stones by starting on the top row (left to right) and then the bottom (left to right). Players are aware of which stones are coming to the board next and you might want a specific color to come to the field of play. Refilling Spirit Stones is yet another opportunity to plan ahead.
Craft Artifacts: The active player can craft one of the four Artifact cards by paying the matching Spirit Stones on the card. The Spirit Stones used are placed in the supply line and eventually cycle back into the game. Artifacts cards have the potential to score bonus points at the end of the game, on top of the three points on the card.
Game End and End Game Scoring
A game of Sorcerer and Stones can end abruptly if players are consistently completing Objective cards and collecting Qi Stones every round. The game ends when one player collects 5 Elemental Runes of different types, the Artifact cards are depleted or all the Qi stones are gone. The end game scoring is easy. Here are the conditions and bonuses:
- Elemental Runes are worth 1 to 3 points based on what you managed to pick up
- Qi Stones are worth one point each
- Artifact cards are worth 3 points each and bonus a one point bonus for each symbol matching the color of an Elemental Rune you have.
- You receive a bonus point for each Spirit Stone you have left over that matches an Element Rune in your possession.
Why should you back Sorcerer and Stones?
- Beautiful art, very colorful
- Tones of replay value and variability based on Objective cards
- Pretty easy to learn, but rewarding once you learn how it works
- The flow of the game is unpredictable in a good way and each turn has purpose
- One of the best filler games on the market
- Works at all player counts
- Easy mode for casual gamers
- Easy, advanced, and cooperative options
- Takes a playthrough or two to get guuuud, so some players will get left behind initially
- If you or people in your group are AP prone, prepare yourself!
- The end game bonuses, I could take it our leave it
I’m going to just come out and say it, Sorcerer & Stones is one of the best filler games on the market. It’s that smart, interesting, and welcoming to all players. I played with couple different groups and EVERYONE came away feeling like they want to own this game. Why am I so hype? It’s important for me to have a game with high replay value. I feel like the gameplay has so many thinky decisions, starting with your very first turn. Players might get stuck in AP land, but you could potentially gain multiple Spirit Stones, fulfill multiple objective requirement and possibly craft an artifact all in one turn. Everyone is looking for the next big turn and everyone is focused. Sorcerer & Stones isn’t a perfect game. The end game scoring has one too many scoring conditions than needed. The Elemental Rune bonuses feel a little tacked on or maybe just unnecessary. In the play sessions I had, no one scored more the 3 or 4 points from the bonuses. I’m thinking it would be better to focus on grabbing more Qi Stones for a couple points and spend less time focusing on that part of the end game. I had to find something to nitpick, sorry. Sorcerer & Stones is a very good game. It has good blend of familiar mechanics and I never felt like there was a one trick strategy to win. Emperor S4 and Deep Water Games are a match made in heaven for me. It’s such a relief when you actively seek out a game like this and it completely meets and exceeds your standards for awesomeness. So, should you back this game? My personal excitement is not the reason you should pledge. I would take a look at Round House and Mystery of the Temples and decide for yourself. All of the titles in this Kickstarter campaign are at least interesting. Check out a couple videos and see how you feel.
Do you have any questions or comments about Sorcerer and Stones? Please comment below and thank you for your time.